happy-business-meeting-233x350Some counselors and practitioners incorrectly believe that that once they have learned about multiculturalism in a class or by reading a book, that they have “checked the box” and are done, according to the American Counseling Association (ACA). Other counselors believe they are automatically competent about multicultural issues in counseling because of their own backgrounds, heritage or exposure to other cultures.

Instead, the ACA says that counselors should view multicultural competence in a similar fashion to a professional certification. “You obtain it, and then you maintain it,” says Michael Brooks, president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, a division of the ACA.

ACA President Cirecie West-Olatunji agrees, saying that counselors must accept the idea that multicultural competence is ever changing and demands constant work and attention. “Maybe we’re competent enough in that moment, but we’ll never be a card-carrying member of multicultural competence — and that is something we have to learn to be OK with,” he says.